“As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their ‘right’ place.” Henri Nouwen
Truly significant leaders possess the ability to view life, circumstances and people without the petty need to cast judgment on them. Too often, I find myself observing events around me, forming personal opinions, often discovering later just how inaccurate I am.
Spoke to a group of 80 business owners today in New Orleans. Each leader has several hundred employees, heavy responsibilities, and challenges within their industry. This morning I shared three specific strategies to improve engagement professionally (with employees) and personally (with family members, friends and community). 79 were very actively listening and participating throughout; one gentleman was clearly not into it.
As I was speaking – and watching him – my judgment started painting this guy for what I KNEW he was. He was sitting in the back row (figures, he probably didn’t even want to be there). He literally read the paper the entire time (I was surprised he could read!). He didn’t share, listen, take notes, and was the first one to stand up and leave when the session ended (no surprise there, probably going back to his hotel room to watch ESPN).
Oh, but my friends, our assumptions of others say much more about us than they do about the person we are judging.
After the hugs and handshakes and exchanging of business cards, I gathered my belongings and made my way toward the elevator. In the hallway I saw him (you know, the man who disrespected me – and others; the man who never even looked up; the man that I KNEW was a total jerk). I cowardly looked down and prepared to walk past him.
He called my name and stopped me (the judge in me wondered what in the world this guy could possibly have to say.) He told me how hard the morning session was for him. He went on to share that his brother had been involved in a car accident. The car had flipped over. His brother was trapped inside – unable to get out. There was nothing anyone could do when the car exploded into flames. On Wednesday this week, the family had just endured the first anniversary of his death.
Before parting, he thanked me for fighting through my pain, for speaking to groups, and for reminding him that there is always reason for hope. He told me that it was a message he was going to take back and share with his entire family.
I had judged the man as being aloof, indifferent, disengaged and generally a total jerk. I could not have been further from the truth.
My friends, as long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what we think other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations.
It’s when we let go of our judgments and expect the best that we begin to understand the reality that far greater is it to be vulnerably open expecting the best than to be guardedly judgmental assuming the worst.
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